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ISTE NETS*T Part 2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

This is the second in a series of five articles about the NETS*T (National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers) from ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education).  We are accustomed to thinking about standards for student achievement.  But we can really raise the bar by having a certain level of expectation for teachers in the use of technology.  What better way to nurture student use of technology that to model it ourselves?

The second of these standards is “Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments.” 

Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

    Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S. Teachers:

  1. design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.
  2. develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.
  3. customize and personalize learning activities to address students ‘ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources.
  4. provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching.

(excerpted from http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForTeachers/2008Standards/NETS_for_Teachers_2008.htm)

How do I decide what to have my students do?  I try to imagine those careers, most of which have not even been invented yet, that my students might occupy when they grow up.  I can ‘t imagine too many future jobs that won ‘t require at least basic computer applications use.  More importantly, my students will need to have the savvy to choose which tools are best for the task at hand.  For me, integrating these digital tools is easy.  I teach technology classes in a computer lab.

Using technology tools in teachingFor my colleagues in traditional classrooms, there are many opportunities to integrate technology, but often the issue is time and resources.  Add to this that the way we “do school,” with all its pacing guides and standardized testing, runs counter to what these standards seem to be advocating.  I think, though, that if we find ways to integrate technology into the activities we already do – or perhaps create new projects that cover many curriculum standards at once – we can both make these engaging environments available to our students and increase their overall achievement.  Student buy-in is key.  But so is teacher commitment.

As educators, it is so easy for us to fall into ruts of how we do things.  We need to get through so much from September to June, that it ‘s not surprising how quickly we move into survival mode to stay afloat.  But I have noticed a change in many of my colleagues that can really help keep our work refreshing and exciting.  It all starts when they see new tools that we have access to.  Just seeing these tools is not enough of a spark most of the time; they need to see them being used by the students before the teachers feel confident coming up with their own uses for them.  Teachers are the most creative, resourceful people you will ever meet.  Given that they often have so little to work with and such high expectations placed upon them, it ‘s really no wonder.  And the great thing about kids these days is that they can learn almost anything in mere minutes.

This past week, I showed some third and fourth graders how to use Google Spreadsheets.  We started with a very basic graph set-up, which all but a small number of them had done with me before in earlier projects.  When I then showed them how to insert gadgets like a word search, they were captivated.  Teachers saw new possibilities.  One class of fourth graders even begged the teacher to give them extra homework with this.  (I told them that I wished I had gotten that on film.)

Another new development this month has been putting my sixth graders to work creating movies about the last four chapters of their textbook.  There was no way we would cover all the material in class with the few remaining weeks of school we have left.  So I got the kids into groups, assigned each group a chapter, and tasked them with making movies to teach their classmates the material.  This is the first time I am trying this, and it may fail miserably.  But that ‘s okay.  We won ‘t know until we try, and the kids will most certainly learn something along the way.  In the bigger picture, they ‘ll be at least familiar with making movies before next fall when we have photography projects in seventh grade.

Teaching with technologyThe skills my students will need in the future include decision-making, working with others, and creative problem solving.  If we always tell them exactly what to do, how to do it, and what ‘s going to be on the test, how will they ever become independent learners?  They also need to embrace lifelong learning.  So many of today ‘s students count the days until they ‘re done with school for good, probably because formal education feels so irrelevant to them.  If we, as, teachers, can shake this habit of doing the things the way we ‘ve always done them, simply because that ‘s how it ‘s always been, then perhaps we can inspire our students to see education as a process and a lifestyle, rather than a punishment or something to “get through.”

Gee, that sounds familiar.  Every teacher I know is counting down to the last day of school.  We ‘re figuring out how to cover what still needs to be covered, and we ‘re dreaming of those summer days when we can use the restroom any time we want.  If we educators change demonstrate then kind of excitement and enthusiasm we ask of our students, I think we just might see a change in the kids ‘ approach too.  I know I am very excited to watch the finished movies when they come out.  And I made sure to tell the students that too.

Images from Flickr user eBeam, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.

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